Pros, cons of car pooling discussed at luncheon

December 06, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Although Tom Groft is willing to car pool to his job at the County Office Building, he faces a problem familiar to other Carroll employees: different work schedules.

Mr. Groft and other county workers interested in car pooling met prospective ride-share partners at an informal luncheon Friday, at which they attempted to coordinate schedules and arrange car pool rotations.

"We do have an interest in ride sharing but almost everybody is on different schedules," said Mr. Groft, manager of the mapping and drafting section of the Planning Department. "Everybody has different needs for their car during the day."

However, Darlene DeMario, the county's commuter transportation coordinator, said that many workers' schedules can be adjusted to accommodate car pooling efforts.

"It really depends on their supervisors," she said. "Most supervisors are aware of our ride-sharing efforts and are willing to do that. There are some jobs -- such as road crews -- that are prohibitive in terms of changing hours."

Pushing the county's car pooling efforts are the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The amendments require employers with 100 or more employees in metropolitan areas where air pollution exceeds standards -- including the Baltimore area -- to develop plans to decrease the number of vehicles used to commute to work.

Ms. DeMario, hired with a federal grant, estimated that about 50 of the county's nearly 700 employees will participate in the ride-share program, now getting under way.

The federal act applies to government institutions and private business. Carroll has about 25 employers with 100 or more workers. Private businesses have until 1996 to comply with the law.

Ride sharing is among the options available to employers to reduce trips. Others include implementing flexible work hours, including four-day work weeks; running employer-operated van shuttles; creating bicycle paths; and telecommuting.

Mr. Groft, who lives in McSherrystown, Pa., found five prospective car pool partners, including Lara Harman, a Planning Department secretary, at the luncheon.

Although Ms. Harman, who lives in Littlestown, Pa., is willing to join the ride-share program, she said she didn't want to give up visiting her grandmother, who lives in Westminster, during her lunch break. "What happens if I need to leave early?" she asked.

Ms. DeMario said the county is making efforts to accommodate employees, a majority of whom spend their lunch periods away from the office. She said the county wants to start a shuttle service to Cranberry Mall and fast-food restaurants.

"We're going to try it," she said. "We don't know if it's going to work. There are a lot of people who are still tied to their vehicles. It's a hard habit to break for a lot of people."

The county also will guarantee employees who car pool a ride home or elsewhere in the event of emergencies or other matters, she said.

Bill Powel, program administrator for the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program, showed up at the luncheon, hoping to find someone to car pool with at least a few days each week.

"I'm willing to ride share at least part of the time," said Mr. Powel, who lives on a farm between Uniontown and Taneytown. "The reason I haven't pursued [car pooling] so far is that I run a lot of errands for the farm I live on during lunch or after work." Mr. Powel said running errands while he is in Westminster saves his son and son-in-law, who operate the farm, from making a 20-mile round trip to town.

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